Ask A Broadsheet Reader


Another stealth Ryanair charge?

YOU decide.

Daniel writes:

Yesterday I checked my wife and I in for our flight from London Gatwick to Dublin. We didn’t pay for seats and chose random seats when free check-in opened.. Ryanair put my wife in a centre seat in row 12 and me in a centre seat in row 27.

After check-in there was an option to change our seats for a fee, £4 for my wife to sit down the back next to me or £7 for me to sit in row 12 with her.

The annoying thing is that looking at the seat map it seems the flight is only about 10% checked in.

I checked with Ryanair on Twitter and they said if you choose random seats your seats are assigned randomly but it looks like I’m not the only one who has had this happen to them lately: see here, here and here.

We travel at least twice a month between Ireland and the UK and Ryanair have always assigned us seats together, even on full flights.

Shouldn’t they be upfront about this charge when you are booking and acknowledge that this is a policy change?



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72 thoughts on “Ask A Broadsheet Reader

  1. Barry the Hatchet

    Sorry, I don’t understand the problem here.. The OP opted for randomly assigned seating and then was annoyed when the seats were randomly assigned?

    1. Zadien

      No, in the past when you checked in you’d be ‘randomly’ assigned the least for the booking i.e. if you bought two seats they’d be randomly assigned but together.

      Now the seats are randomly assigned apart. This was never announced so people on my last flight were all separated. Had I known I’d of paid a few quid more to sit with my wife but as mentioned it’s a stealth move.

      1. Barry the Hatchet

        But as soon as you check in you will know you haven’t been randomly assigned together (so it’s not a surprise) and you then have the option to pay a few quid extra to move your seat and sit together.

        1. anne

          Which part of it aren’t you getting?

          Before randomly assigned seats (like anywhere on the plane.. geddit?) but together.

          Now, they are being randomly assigned seats but not together, even when they are plenty of spaces available to put them together.

          1. anne

            anywhere on the plane Rob. 2 people together can be seated anywhere on the plane and it’d still be random.

          2. Barry the Hatchet

            What i don’t understand is why anyone is getting their knickers in a twist about this. You can pay extra to sit together. Or you can be a cheapskate and whinge at Ryanair – the bargain basement airline – about their definition of the word random. Come back to me when they start randomly putting people on different planes and I might have some sympathy.

  2. Donald duck

    I’d have thought they’d make more money by seating husbands and wives together and having them pay to get seated apart.

    1. Increasing Displacement


      Don’t fly with them for this kind of stuff.

      It’s not longer about being competitive, it’s about gouging.
      Or always was…

      1. Fact Checker

        Back in 2000 it took me SIXTY-FIVE HOURS of work to earn the price of a return trip from Dublin to Berlin.

        Now it would take someone in the same job between fifteen and twenty hours.

        I salute Ryanair’s commitment to letting Irish people to travel places for far, far less than they used to have to pay.

        1. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

          “let’s all meet up in the year 2000,
          Bring a few bob and fly Fact Checker ho-o-o-ome”

        2. scottser

          yeah, but with ryanair it takes you the other 40 hours to get from where they fly you to where you actually want to be.

          1. Increasing Displacement

            He doesn’t value his time. Rare you get where you actually want to go without another cost involved. And time. Lots of it.

        3. Increasing Displacement

          “I salute Ryanair’s commitment to letting Irish people to travel places for far, far less than they used to have to pay.”

          That was their goal from the start yeah? Maybe but I doubt it.
          No one questions they broke the monopoly.
          But gouging is now the core practice, and has been for a long time.
          Doubt there’s much commitment to anything else.

  3. hex

    If the flight is pretty empty, it costs precisely nothing to up and move seat once the boarding is finished.

    1. TheQ47

      I think, in fairness, he wasn’t saying that the flight was empty, just that most of the seats weren’t booked yet, i.e., that there was the opportunity for Ryanair to seat them together, they just decided not to do that.

  4. bisted

    …yep…happened last week for the first time on a flight to Berlin and back for 3 of us…nice potential revenue earner for a very simple algorithm in the booking system…

  5. edalicious

    I believe this is a thing too. No matter how early you book in, you never seem to get seats together anymore, even if the flight isn’t full.

  6. Rob_G

    Dublin to Gatwick is what, about an hour flying? I think your marriage will survive this enforced separation.

    1. Rob_G

      Also, £4 for my wife to sit down the back next to me …”

      – jeez, four whole pounds? Just pay the £4, and be thankful that we live in era where you have internet access to share this injustice with the world, and that airfare is sooooo cheap that paying £4 to pick your seat seems a huge expense.

        1. Harry the Horse

          Ah Anne, you’re getting upset over nothing. Nobody is forcing anyone to pay. Unfortunately Danny seems to be upset that he didn’t get something that he didn’t pay for. So what if the plane was empty and they were 10 rows apart. Just get up and move when the doors close. Just please stop whinging about a non-problem.

          1. anne

            I’m not upset.

            No one said the plane was empty.
            Hint – check in time percentage when he checked it doesnt mean that’s how full the flight is going to be.

            Go away and read it again, sloooooly this time..think about it for a few mins before you come back to us again.

            The flight could be full with randomly assigned seats but people who booked together, sitting together.

            I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with stupid fuppwits today.

          2. Nigel

            Whinging and sneering about someone sharing their experiences of a Ryanair flight is the whinging black hole of non-problem whinging: it sucks and makes a snowflake look sturdy and substantial.

          3. Harry the Horse

            Someone got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. Still a non-problem. not worth getting the knickers twisted for.

          4. scottser

            it’s not nothing. so ryanair think it’s ok to split up a family with young kids say? charging people to sit together is plain bottomfoolery, whatever way you add it up.

          5. Rob_G

            @ Scottser-

            The airline isn’t splitting any families up; people can choose to purchase seats together at the time of booking if they so wish.

          6. Nigel

            It’s nothing, but you’re groaning from your pulpit like a ninety year-old priest on downers who can’t stand to see the peasants get uppity.

  7. Donal

    Vueling air have been doing this for a while, It’s the reason I decided to stop flying with them, its a very sneaky charge!

  8. Gary

    They always said free seats were assigned “randomly”, but they actually seemed to be assigned in sequence, and you typically got seated together if you checked in early enough.

    So have they changed it now to be genuinely “random” and are deliberately breaking up groups on the same ticket into random seat assignments? This would tie in with the recent change where adults travelling with children HAVE to pay for seat assignment to make sure children are not seated separately from their parents. Since that’s in place, it would give them free reign to break up groups on the same ticket into random seats. Nasty!

    1. Donal

      I think that’s exactly it

      They won’t force you to choose and pay for seats. But if you choose not to pay for a selected seat in the allotted check in timescale (30-5 days in advance), then regardless of how many others have chosen that option you will not be provided with seats together regardless of what seats are available when you check in in the free period (4days – 4 hours in advance of flight).
      It gives the impression that everyone else must have paid to check in, and thus will convince more people to do so the next time they fly.
      It’s simple pettiness in my opinion, and a reversal of last years be nicer PR efforts.

      1. Donal

        Also, it surely is going to cause frustration and anger amongst their in flight sales staff, giving them an unnecessary amount of complaining passengers to deal with on each flight. Good ol non union recognition preventing the staff from objecting to the company making their jobs more difficult

    2. Boj

      I’ve been stung by that a few times already. It really hurts to pay this bit!
      What hurts even more though is you pay full price ticket for a baby to sit on your lap….how do they get away with that??????

    3. Toe Up

      This happened with my family on a flight to the Canaries last year. Luckily some nice passengers offered to change seats so that we could all sit together. I don’t see it as being much of an issue for adults, but It is a particularly nasty ploy if you are travelling with very young children, as we were.

      1. Goosey Lucy

        Yeah, it’s nasty re people travelling with children, but it’s not life-changing for most adults, esp on short flights within Europe..underhand though

        1. Fact Checker

          They don’t seat young children away from their parents though. I think the threshold is about 12.

          Pick random seat allocation and they will seat you together.

          How long is the average Ryanair flight anyway in Europe – 90 minutes or so?

  9. Harry the Horse

    You opted for random seat allocation. If you don’t like it, don’t fly Ryanair. Problem solved !!!

    1. Gary

      Yes, but their definition of “random” seems to have changed, from not actually random to genuinely random. People may not be aware of this change. So it’s worth flagging.

        1. Increasing Displacement

          so you wouldnt care of the terms of something you bought changed and you didnt know?

          you’re snowflakey

          1. Rob_G

            you are getting a ‘randomly-assigned’ seat – you are getting precisely what you paid for.

          2. Harry the Horse

            Snowflakes expect everyone to solve their problems and want to pay for nothing. Random is random, no matter how “random” or otherwise the allocation is made. You get what you’re given. Expecting otherwise and getting upset when you don’t get your way is…… snowflakey !!!

        1. RiderOnTheStorm

          Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
          God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eye

  10. RiderOnTheStorm

    From the airline boss who called his own customers ‘stupid’ and told refund-hunters to ‘f*** off’…….just another poke-you-in-the-eye-with-his-stick-and- f***-you random moment.

  11. Metropolitan

    Happened to me two last week, family of 4 (2 teens) all of seated separately (and immediately asked for money to be seated together) Defo a new under the radar revenue generating scheme.

    Within the rights to do so, just wish they’d tell us before moving the goalposts again on ticketing process.

  12. postmanpat

    Not surprising from Ryanair. I always thought it was only a matter of time before they purposely mixed passengers seats out of spite. Personally I would still not pay the seating preference and just ask someone to swap seats on the day if I had to. Hopefully enough normies will now pay the extra charge so that wont be a problem . But you know it’s only a matter of time before the poor staff will be told to disallow seat swapping citing “anti -terrorism safety reasons” or some such nonsense. Cue more abuse to poor working cabin crews .While the Ryanair executives decide what to spend their new quarterly bonuses on. At the end of the day its a first world problem so I wont get too upset about it. It not like you can just flap your arms to get to another country. Airplanes are still a miracle to me so I’m not going to ring the Joe Duffy moanshow about it! And you know it will be the red faced entitled doleys on the way back from their third state funded annual holiday from Santa Ponza that will make the biggest fuss.

    1. delacaravanio

      It’s going to be a disaster for families. Ryanair will delay their turnarounds as, due to this silly policy, mom and dad will now have to go and find their children’s seats, seat them first, then find their own. Same again on landing.

  13. Conor

    Yep starting happening recently. Doesn’t really bother me but if I had a family with kids/teenagers I’d be pretty annoyed, especially considering that previously seats on the same booking have always been allocated together.
    But then again, cheap no frills airline so if you want to sit together either stump up the additional cost or fly on a more expensive airline. The joys of 21st travel.

    1. Sheila

      This happened to my friend travelling with Virgin Atlantic.
      They’d even paid for assigned, spacious economy seating.
      On both legs of the trip.
      The kids dotted all over the place.
      Customer service afterwards was atrocious

  14. Sarah

    Not just Ryanair unfortunately. I’ve flown with them, Iberia and American Airlines in the past 3 weeks and they’ve all pulled the same crap. Some bright spark in the industry obviously identified another wonderful customer unfriendly practice and they’re all jumping on board.

  15. Sheila

    Yes, we noticed this too at the weekend.
    I got seat 01C flying out.
    Who’s laughing now Ryanair?
    Me that’s who.
    Free leg room.

  16. Kevish


    Random is random. Flight in peace and stop whyning. What you are saying makes sense from one perspective but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Again, random is random.

  17. Verbatim

    The thing about this is that we are slowly but surely being less and less treated like humans by humans, now it’s the machine that seats us, Again, accept, accept.

  18. Markgdub

    If make lifestyle adjustments elsewhere, you will be in a position to afford 2 seats together.

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